Eagles Droppings 7/14: Cooper In the Fold, Eagles Youthful Talent, Two Experts Weigh In On Vick and Interested In BYU RB
By Lance Epstein
WR Cooper Signs Rookie Deal:
On Tuesday, the Philadelphia Eagles and rookie wide receiver Riley Cooper came to terms on a four-year contract.
The fifth-round pick out of Florida has the size and athleticism that the Eagles' wide receiving corps lacked last year. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Riley has the ability to go up and catch the ball at his highest point much like Larry Fitzgerald of the Arizona Cardinals. This is a major reason why in only 51 collegiate games, Cooper pulled in 81 balls for 1,496 yard and 18 touchdowns.
Certainly DeSean Jackson has game-breaking speed and Jeremy Maclin is a solid all-around threat, but neither possesses the size to be a difference maker in the red zone that Cooper's physical skills permit him to be.
Additionally, his athleticism is so rare and unique that the Texas Rangers  and the Phillies  drafted him to play baseball. The Eagles are expecting the rangy wide receiver to compete with Hank Baskett for the fourth wide receiver position. However, Cooper is projected to be Baskett's long-term replacement seeing as Baskett only signed a one-year deal with the club.
After inking Cooper to his rookie deal, this leaves the Eagles with just two unsigned draft picks as training camp starts in just under two weeks on July 26: first-rounder DE Brandon Graham and second-rounder FS Nate Allen.
Where Does The Eagles Youth Rank...Not As High As One Would Think:
The Eagles entered the 2010 offseason with one goal in mind: To get younger, faster and better.
The move that got the ball rolling on the youth movement was releasing veteran running back Brian Westbrook and replacing him with 22-year old second-year pro LeSean McCoy.
Then Andy Reid and general manager Howie Roseman followed up this move with a shocker that changed entire landscape of the NFC East. They shipped Donovan McNabb to their division rival Washington. This meant that Kevin Kolb (25) would take over the reigns of a very young, but talented offensive unit. At his disposal, Kolb has wide receivers DeSean Jackson (23), Jeremy Maclin (22) and tight end Brent Celek (25) along with a very formidable offensive line.
For the Eagles it was not just about getting rejuvenated on the offensive of the ball, but the defense needed a massive overhaul and infusion of fresh legs as well. The Eagles did not waste anytime has they dumped aging veterans like Darren Howard and Sheldon Brown.
Instead of signing high priced or over-the-hill free agents to horrible contracts (ala Chicago Bears with Julius Peppers), the team went another route. They traded for 25-year old outside linebacker Ernie Sims (ninth-overall selection in 2006) and defensive end Darryl Tapp. Also, the Eagles went defensive in the 2010 NFL draft as they selected three defensive ends, a safety and a linebacker in the first five rounds.
Without a doubt most would assume with the weapons on offense and a revamp and youthful defense that the Eagles would be ranked extremely high in terms of youthful talent. However ESPN insider, Football Outsiders and Bill Barnwell do not have the Eagles even rank inside the top 10 in terms of youthful talent.
In the insider article, Barnwell explains the criteria of his selections. He uses the term "young talent" to mean players who are 25 or younger as of Sept. 1, 2010. This is the main reason that the Texans (1), Panthers (2), Chiefs (3), Ravens (4) and 49ers (5) were ranked ahead of the curve.
Still, it is puzzling that the Eagles only managed to finish at No. 13 on the list. Especially when Barnell talked so highly of the young talent.
The league's most aggressive organization is always happy to churn talent and bring new players into the lineup, but this year will be a make-or-break season for a lot of the organization's young talent. No one doubts wide receiver DeSean Jackson, but there are plenty of question marks surrounding guys like Kevin Kolb, LeSean McCoy and Winston Justice, each of whom will have far more expected of them than ever before. There are three young players competing for a spot across from defensive end Trent Cole. The injury-riddled Victor Abiamiri appears to finally be out of favor, which could open up a hole for former Seahawks end Darryl Tapp or first-round pick Brandon Graham. The team would love for one of the three to unseat veteran Juqua Parker.
On the other hand, there is some positive news coming out of this article for Eagles fans. No other NFC East team finished ahead of the Eagles; the closest being the Giants at No. 17. Furthermore, the Redskins were singled-out as the worst franchise in terms of youth as they ranked 32nd.
However, it is still odd that the Eagles could not crack the top 10. Although it makes much more sense after Barnwell revealed another list; a list that maybe a reason why the Eagles missed out of being in top ten. Barnwell put together an article of the top 25 prospects in the NFL. His guidelines were that the player must be in his second, third or fourth year; drafted in rounds three thru seven (or undrafted); and still playing under his initial rookie contract.
No Eagles were found in Barnwell's top 25 prospects. One of the key reasons is that Celek, Jackson, Maclin, McCoy and Kolb did not meet the requirements to be considered a "prospect."
Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine that the Eagles are not one of the top 10 teams in terms of youthful talent. Especially when ESPN.com has the Eagles as fourth youngest team per average age at 25.20 (only behind the Colts, Buccaneers and Panthers).
Currently, the Eagles have 21 starters out of 22 that are under the age of 30 (Jamaal Jackson being the only player over 30 as of September 1, 2010-- he is thirty). Yes Kolb is in his first year as a starter, but he demonstrated his ability to be a starter by throwing for back-to-back 300-yard games in his first two career starts. In addition, it is hard to argue that he Eagles defense is not vastly improved with the infusion youthful talent via trade, the draft and Stewart Bradley returning.
Once again this shows that the national media overlooking the Eagles and their plethora of talent. It would not come as a surprise to anyone in the Philadelphia area if the Kolb's prediction that the Birds were going to shock a lot of people this year came true.
NFL Experts Wyche and Ross Talk Vick:
Over the past two weeks, Michael Vick has gone from being the Eagles "Wildcat" and backup quarterback to a mistake according to SI.com's Ross Tucker. Tucker defends the Eagles front office by saying every organization makes an error, but he also says it is Vick's on the field performance that has hurt the Eagles.
"On the field, Vick has done very little," Tucker wrote. "In fact, an argument could be made that putting him into games last season in certain Wildcat packages actually did more harm than good. It was almost as if the Eagles gave him plays and opportunities near the goal line and in the red zone in order to justify their decision to sign him in the first place. His game day accomplishments were minimal and Vick mostly slowed one of the best offenses in the league."
Furthermore, Tucker discussed the Eagles’ thought process with Vick and why their investment plummeted.
"Most people accepted the Eagles' decision to sign Vick because it appeared to be an investment," wrote Ross who explains the Eagles philosophy of picking up Vick last year. "The organization would take the heat for being the first to employ the former Falcon after his dog-fighting conviction and then eventually trade him during this offseason to a team that wants him as its starting quarterback. That made sense. The only problem is that the market for Vick never materialized. League sources say the Eagles have tried desperately to trade him, but to no avail. No offers were made, not even for a 6th- or 7th-round draft pick. That would practically be giving him away. It seems pretty unlikely that the Birds actually thought they would be paying Vick over $5 million to be their backup this year."
All in all, Ross believes the only starting opportunity that Vick has in his future is if Kevin Kolb becomes injured or for the new UFL franchise in Norfolk (V.A.). However, Tucker thinks that the Vick will not have that chance to play for the UFL since the Eagles are stuck with him for another year.
"Despite reports to the contrary, most of the people who know the organization intimately do not expect the Eagles to release Vick, barring something unforeseen, of course. The franchise has simply invested too much time, money, and even civic goodwill to jettison him now, especially since it really doesn't have much of a backup plan at this point," he wrote. "Sure, the Eagles could sign a Josh McCown or Jeff Garcia, but that seems unlikely."
While Tucker does not envision that the Eagles will sign a veteran backup, NFL Network's Steve Wyche tends to agree with him on that point. In Wyche's article entitled, "Offseason issues still loom with training camps around the corner," he talks about what the Vick situation means for the Eagles.
"If they are wise, they better keep Jeff Garcia on speed dial and save some chips to possibly deal for Minnesota's Sage Rosenfels," Wyche wrote. "This Vick brushfire is similar to several minor flare-ups he had in Atlanta before the dogfighting catastrophe. The Eagles' support seems unwavering, which could prod Vick to capitalize on this chance to remain in the NFL. However, Andy Reid and Joe Banner better have a backup plan."
Like Tucker, Wyche does not think the Eagles will change their stance on Vick, so he is likely to make the 53-man roster. Nonetheless, it is easy to agree with him about the Eagles needing to have a backup plan for their backup quarterback.
As Wyche points out that before Vick went to prison on the major dog fighting scandal, he had multiple other run-ins with the law. It appears as if Vick had changed his ways by participating in team-organized activities and had actually been working out over the offseason.
Now, Vick has found himself in a familiar position that he needed to avoid. The Eagles should not hesitate to call Jeff Garcia incase Vick experience is truly over. However, it is tough to imagine Reid and company admitting that they did make mistake with Vick (if Vick is even a mistake, which is unknown at this time). Plus it is even more far fetch to think the Eagles would trade away a draft pick for Rosenfels to compound their error.
Eagles Interested in BYU RB Unga:
The Eagles have shown interest in adding another running back into the already crowded backfield via the Supplemental Draft (today) according to Geoff Mosher of Delawareonline.com.
Mosher says a team source confirmed that the Eagles were one of approximately 20 teams to attend Brigham Young University running back Harvey Unga's workout.
Unga (6-1, 245) is the traditional power back. He can move a pile and shines in between the tackles. More importantly, Unga has a good set of hands, which makes him a receiving threat out of the backfield as well.
Yet, he lacks elite explosion to get to the outside or take it to the house. However, he does offer the Eagles something they did not have last year, which is a short-yardage, goal-line and Brandon Jacobs style running back.
Of course, the Eagles did just draft LSU running back Charles Scott in the sixth-round, but Scott is a question mark for the club. It is unknown whether he can stay healthy after missing significant time with a broken clavicle last year.
Furthermore, Mosher makes an excellent point that Andy Reid loves players from his alma mater. In Reid's tenure in Philadelphia, he has not been afraid to bring in former cougars such as Reno Mahe, Chad Lewis and Scott. This could mean that Unga is almost a lock to be an Eagle.
Although it makes much more sense that the Eagles selected him based on him being a skilled running back. The Eagles are hoping second-year back LeSean McCoy can develop into a Brian Westbrook clone. Nevertheless, he has shown a propensity to be careless with the ball and wore down towards the end of his rookie season. Moreover, second-stringer Mike Bell is only in Philadelphia for a year and the rest of the players are may not be as talented as Unga.
In order for the Eagles to Unga, they must follow the guidelines of the Supplemental draft as Mosher explains.
"Here’s how the draft process works: Teams email a bid of which player they’re interested in and what round draft pick they’d be willing to surrender for him," he wrote. "The team that submits the highest bid wins the rights. In cases where two more teams submit similar bids, the team with the highest draft position wins out. Here’s the catch: The winning team must then surrender the draft pick of the round they petitioned in next April’s draft."
Some fans maybe asking why Unga did not enter the 2010 NFL draft? Well, he declared he was coming back for his senior season after projections had him as a sixth-round pick. A few weeks after NFL Draft deadline, he was ruled to be ineligible for the upcoming season for violation of the school’s “honor code.” According to National Football Post, the reason was that he impregnated his fiancé, Keilani Moeaki ( a former BYU basketball player).